(Content Warning: This review makes mentions of domestic abuse and incarceration)
Reworked after a stint in La Mama’s Explorations program in 2016, Jennifer Monk’s To Lonely, with Love deals with written letters and their place in contemporary society, especially for the isolated.
Sam is a housewife in an abusive relationship, unable to leave the house of her own accord. Roger is a prisoner, growing increasingly distant from his family. These two characters both have limited means of communicating with the outside world, but the letters they write stop each other from being lonely. To Lonely, with Love is a treatise to a dying art form, and in the context of the internet age revels the beauty of such a form of communication.
Monk and Dallinger both play Sam and Roger. Saying that they ‘take turns’ playing each character doesn’t do the relationship the two form much justice, as there’s a significant chunk of the play where Monk and Dallinger are wearing a bit of both characters’ costumes. Through this we’re shown the similarity of each character’s struggles, which is ultimately what ends up bringing them together.
The characters are earmarked by two distinct voices, however – Roger, a deep and ocker representation of working-class Australia, acts as a clear contrast to Sam, who is dainty and delicate, akin to a mid-20th century housewife archetype. Lisa Dallinger’s work as a voice coach really shines through, not just here but throughout the play, and the intimate nature of the space only emphasizes the strong vocal performances of both Dallinger and Monk.
The production was performed in a very small space, which fit the style and message well. Coupled with the effective, minimal lighting, the space becomes a symbol of the emotional and physical claustrophobia of isolation the two main protagonists face, while also effectively reflecting the intimacy of letters, especially in the internet age.
To Lonely, with Love is a demonstration of the emotional importance that letters play in modern society. Intelligently crafted and thoughtfully executed, the play itself reads very much like a well-written letter.
La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Season: 21st – 25th of March 2018
Bookings can be made here.
Jennifer Monk – Actor, Director
Lisa Dillinger – Actor
Perri Cummings – Script
Jason Crick – Lighting design
Emma Howchin – Costume design
Eadie Testro-Girasole – Image
Applications for La Mama’s Explorations program close on the 30th of April, and the showcase runs this year from the 15th of October to the 2nd of December. More information can be found here.